Did they honestly think they would get away with it? I mean it’s not like they weren’t aware of the constant rows over party funding and money in politics – more often than not they’re the ones ramping it up. So surely the two coalition parties weren’t naive enough to think that they could keep the “donation that wasn’t” from deceased former nurse Joan Edwards?
The whole thing gave off a distinctly fishy aroma from the start. Not because someone had donated to more than one party – that does happen from time to time – but because the amounts of cash involved seemed incredibly arbitrary. Now we learn that it was divvied up between the two parties on the basis of some combination of number of MPs and number of ministers.
Cynical Tory and Lib Dem press officers tried to claim that this curious donation had been her clear intention, yet the Daily Mail has today uncovered a copy of her will, which states that the money should go to:
“whichever Government is in office at the date of my death for the Government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit”
Yet instead of the money going to the Treasury to be spent on the NHS (or nurses like Joan Edwards), schools or any other national good, the Tories and the Lib Dems initially tried to keep the cash to help them campaign at the next election. Cynical spinners then sought to argue that Edwards had left the money to ‘whichever party’ was in power at the time of her death. But that’s clearly not the case – Joan Edwards wasn’t giving her money to Grant Shapps to spend on leaflets or replacing their dreadful Merlin database.
Now both parties have relented – rightly – but lets not pretend that they’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do. If so, why didn’t they do so sooner? The truth is they’ve handed the money to the Treasury today because they’ve been caught red-handed accepting a donation that should never have gone anywhere near them.
And Tory Chair Grant Shapps – a man who usually has so many opinions on party funding – has been silent as a church mouse today. Funny that…